Biggering and Blizzards

Luke 12:13-21 |  A story about how to get rich

The kids and I have been doing a lot of road tripping lately. 

There is something about being in the car that requires more parental mediation than normal.  I think it’s because resources are scarce – as long as we’re in the car, all we have is what we have in this little cabin!  And so I have to intervene to divvy out those resources fairly: 

“Reid, it’s Eleanor’s turn to sit in the front seat.” 

“Eleanor, let Reid have a turn playing that game on the phone.”

“Eleanor, it’s your turn to pick what we listen to.”

And my personal favorite:

            “Stop touching each other – stay on your side!”

This isn’t a judgment on my kids, though.  We adults need the same kind of mediation.  Luke 12 is a particularly serious example.  A man comes to Jesus and says, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.”  Many people know the double-pain of this kind of situation – a financial and relational brokenness.  With no parents left to mediate, this man turns to a religious leader for help:  Jesus. 

But Jesus doesn’t help – at least not in the way the man wanted.   Jesus chastises this man for even asking him to intervene and then tells a story about a rich farmer who needlessly built bigger barns to accommodate his bigger crops.  The story is meant to point out the foolishness of this kind of behavior.  Short of Jesus himself, maybe the best person to point out the potential ridiculousness of “biggering” is Dr. Seuss. 

…business is business! And business must grow

regardless of crummies in tummies, you know. 

I meant no harm. I most truly did not.

But I had to grow bigger. So bigger I got.

I biggered my factory. I biggered my roads.

I biggered my wagons. I biggered the loads

of the Thneed’s I shipped out. I was shipping them forth

to the South! To the East! To the West! To the North!

I went right on biggering…selling more Thneed’s.

And I biggered my money, which everyone needs.

-The Lorax

Nothing says “ridiculous” like repeatedly using a nonesense word.

We have another word for this kind of behavior, one that communicates not so much the ridiculousness but the seriousness: greed.  Greed is universally frowned upon.  Is the quality of the bad guys in most movies.  We would never be greedy, oh no! 

But we are greedy.  It sneaks up on us.  I can show you how.

I present to you as evidence:  the Dairy Queen Blizzard.

If you don’t know, the “Blizzard” is a magical combination of soft serve ice cream and candy that has been delighting taste buds since it was first introduced in 1985.  Growing up, it was a staple of the Wood family road trip.  About halfway between our current home and my dad’s childhood home, my parents would stop and buy themselves 15 minutes of quiet car time by letting us all get Blizzards.

For me, it was love at first sight.  I love the Oreo Blizzard, the Heath Bar Blizzard, the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard…  Well, all the Blizzards.  The only bad thing about a Blizzard is when the cup is empty. 

I started so young on the Blizzard that I didn’t know at first there were sizes.  Looking at the menu one day, a light bulb went off.  “Mom, can I have a medium?” 

“Are you sure you want that much?” she asked. 

YES, I WAS SURE!  What could be bad about more Blizzard?

So I moved on up – from the small to the medium, and then, one day, when I was old enough to buy Blizzards without parental supervision, from the medium to the large

But the large still comes to an end.  Eventually there will always come that last spoonful, that scraping sound that reveals you’ve hit the bottom of the Blizzard cup.  Then I’m left with a sick feeling in my tummy… and a little, twisted voice inside that whispers, “I wish I could have just a little more…”

That’s how greed sneaks up on us.  It seldom goes 0 to 60.  We don’t start out with the ridiculously unnecessary “large” Blizzard.  We don’t start out thinking we’re going to build a ridiculously unnecessary number of barns.  But little by little, we keep acquiring more – thinking one day “more” will solve all our problems. 

To make matters worse, most of the things we want more of aren’t bad.  Sometimes we actually need more barns, more savings, more church buildings, more whatever.  It’s a question of why that reveals whether it’s foolish or not.  Like with the rich farmer – his barns aren’t wrong until we hear his inner monologue saying, “I’ll just keep all this to myself so I can spend the rest of my life eating and drinking and being merry.”  And the man’s question about inheritance isn’t foolish, either – but we don’t know his inner monologue.  Jesus did.  Maybe Jesus knew something we didn’t.

What about us?  Are we seeking a God-called, responsible more… or are we greedily biggering? 

Thankfully, Biblical tradition has given us a gift that protects us from greed.  It’s the spiritual equivalent of brushing twice a day to keep the cavities away, something we can do on a regular basis and to keep the greed away.

We take some of what we have… and we give it back to God.

In the church we call this an offering – offering some of what we have back to God.  Or we might call this a tithe, which refers to ten percent – the Old Testament tradition of giving the first ten percent of what we earn back to God.  That’s what Alan and I do; every time we’re paid, the first “bill” we address is to give 10% of that to the church.  We write the check or make the online transfer.  We let it go and remind ourselves that the point of having all that we have is for God to guide us in using it.  We give it away and remind ourselves that there will be more, later; that there is enough; that with God, there is always enough.

Sometimes we live like this world is the cabin of a car.  We bicker and fight over resources like kids in the back seat.  But God has given us enough – if we resist the temptation to clammer for “more,” if we recognize that we don’t have to fight each other for the large… more will come tomorrow, and enough is enough for today.

Amen.

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